NYS Ed Department Framed Vaccination as a First Amendment Right – Whose Rights are at Stake?

State Education Department ordered Jewish school to accept unvaccinated kids

Amid a record-setting nationwide measles outbreak driven largely by New York cases, the state ordered a Long Island school to accept unvaccinated kids into its classes and after-school activities.

The Shulamith School for Girls in Cedarhurst says the state Education Department was wrong to twice overturn the school’s decision to bar Ilana and Nikolay Jinjihashvili’s two daughters after the parents sought a religious exemption to the vaccination rule.

The Jewish day school is now asking a federal judge to overturn Education Commissioner Mary­Ellen Elia’s orders, calling them “illegal, void and unenforceable.”

While the current measles outbreak has put the vaccination debate at the forefront of public health, the school is framing the dispute as a First Amendment fight.

“There are schools that have taken the position that under the school’s religious belief, as a matter of Jewish law, students should be vaccinated,” the school’s lawyer, Philip Kalban, told The Post. The parents may have a different and “sincere” belief about vaccinations, Kalban explained, “but they say it’s based on Jewish law, and our position is that Jewish law says just the opposite.”

The First Amendment comes into play because the school argues the state has no business interfering in a religious matter.

The case landed in Brooklyn federal court last week after the family sought to send their girls to an ­after-school art show and fundraiser but were blocked by the school.

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Yeshiva Education and Substantial Equivalency – Why not Meet Requirements or Forego Funding?

State education chief unveils retooled ‘substantial equivalency’ rules for private schools

Nancy Cutler, Rockland/Westchester Journal NewsPublished 3:33 p.m. ET May 31, 2019

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speaks with The Journal News Staff in White Plains March 18, 2019. Carucha L. Meuse, cmeuse@lohud.com

The New York State Education Department announced proposed regulations Friday for academic instruction at nonpublic schools, less than two months after its guidelines with similar goals were blocked by the State Supreme Court.

The issue focuses on enforcing state law requiring that secular studies at private schools — like math science, English and history — be “substantially equivalent” to what’s taught in public schools. Concern has been most focused on certain ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish yeshivas that advocates have reported fail to meet the law or prepare their students for employment and a solid economic future.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia initially issued new guidelines in November that were meant to update previously issued regulations for enforcing the law. But the court ruled in April that the Education Department failed to follow its own procedure for such specific changes.

The Education Department is classifying the effort as a change to regulations, not just guidelines. The path to new regulations includes a public comment period — lacking in the original process.

“Nonpublic schools are an important part of the educational landscape in New York State,” Elia said in a statement. “With the regulations, we will ensure that all students — no matter which school they attend — have the benefit of receiving the education state law says they must have. By following the State Administrative Procedure Act process, we are addressing the Court’s concerns.”

Some advocates had been pushing the state to adopt emergency regulations to enforce the “substantial equivalency” law, rather than launching a lengthier process. Naftuli Moster, the founder and executive director of Young Advocates for Fair Education, or YAFFED, said in a statement that the state was playing into the hands of groups that resist oversight of yeshivas.

“Instead of acting quickly to implement emergency regulations, NYSED has chosen a lengthy process which all but guarantees that in the 2019-2020 school year, tens of thousands of children will continue to be denied the education to which they are entitled by law,” the New City resident said.

Yeshiva education activist Naftuli Moster, who has been the topic of a lot of criticism and praise for his work with YAFFED, a nonprofit that’s pushing the state to ensure secular education is provided in yeshivas, discussed his work outside Rockland County Court House June 12, 2018 in New City. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Also at issue is the state’s plan to allow inspections by the public school district to take place by the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. “That’s like saying ‘when you get around to it, but no rush,’ ” YAFFED responded.

The education equivalency issue mostly impacts New York City and the East Ramapo school district, which has scores of yeshivas in their boundaries.

Rockland Legislator Aron Wieder, D-Spring Valley, has been a strong critic of such oversight. Wieder, who is Hasidic, represents parts of Spring Valley. He has asserted that Elia “has bought into the narrative that is being peddled by people who have left the Orthodox community and only have hatred towards our community.”

The issue has caused much attention in New York politics. In 2018, the state budget was nearly derailed when Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, demanded language be inserted into the budget that would influence the way the state considered curriculum at certain yeshivas.

The proposed regulations more specifically spell out the ability for a private school to challenge the enforcement process in an effort to include “due process.” The guidelines also allow “for integrated curriculum that delivers content by incorporating more than one subject into the content of a course.”

The proposed regulations drop references to state learning standards; rather, the guidance language will focus on instruction in subject areas required by law.

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The Professor Adina Schick Affidavit and Yeshiva Education – Misleading Interpretation – Part I


Misleading and Uninformed – Further Keeping Children Hostage – The Affidavit of Professor Adina Schick and What it Fails to Understand

We are posting the following letter and the Professor Adina Schick affidavit. Professor Shick is worthy or praise in her own right for the work she has done and all that she has accomplished. This is not intended to be a personal attack and should not be viewed as such. We have not researched Professor Schick’s upbringing, her background or anything else about her to see if she was a Yeshiva student, or if she is affiliated with an ultra-Orthodox community. 

As a general matter, her affidavit raises Common Core standards which in our view is problematic to begin with because there are few public schools in the State of New York that are keen on continuing the Common Core standards. Common Core was a faulty premise to begin with and a number of states have already done away with them. 

Her affidavit appears to disregard the fact that if students are given public funding for education they should be required to meet public requirements. It was clearly not an affidavit intended for that purpose. It was intended to ask a limited question: “Can children taught in Yeshiva be meeting the same standards as public school children?” Her response, in our view, is wholly misleading. 

Professor Schick fails to mention that the Talmud is written in Aramaic. Much of the studying in Yiddish (not English) may be a linguistic accomplishment for the children learning to understand these two languages but does nothing for children who need to function in country where English is the language of daily living. The children are not taught to understand science, mathematics, physics or anything about their physical realm except through the Aramaic words in the Talmud and while one might be able to extend some sort of imaginary parallel between the two, the focus within the Yeshiva context does not draw that parallel. 

We receive the following from a concerned reader and thought we should post: 

Dear Lost Messiah:

“This affidavit is extremely problematic and misleading. The fact remains, the Talmud is written in Aramaic. The language of instruction in the 39 chasidic yeshivas affected by the new guidelines is in yiddish. There is simply no way the Next Generation English Language Standards can be met through the study of Talmud in yiddish.”


Page 6:

14. In the middle school years, for example, Next Generation English Language Standards such as Literacy and Informational Text Reading Standards (e.g., Key Ideas and Details; Craft and Structure; Integration of Knowledge and Ideas); Speaking and Listening Standards (e.g., Comprehension and Collaboration; Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas); Language Standards (e.g., Vocabulary Acquisition and Use), as well as Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies and Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects can be met. 


Yeshiva vs. State – New York State and Substantially Similar Education


“Further, the PEARLS Petitioners failed to submit evidence that they have suffered concrete constitutional harm from the issuance of the Updated Guidance. The record contains no evidence that the Updated Guidance’s interpretation and recommendations regarding substantial equivalence conflicts irreconcilably with Yeshiva curriculum; no evidence of what secular message the Yeshivas believe they are being forced to deliver in conflict with their beliefs; no evidence of what part or parts of the Yeshivas’ curricula they would be forced to alter; no evidence of what type of efforts, if any, Yeshivas may have to make to attain substantial equivalency; no evidence of how compliance with the substantial equivalence standard will impair their ability to practice their religion or impede their way of life; and no evidence of any current or impending impact on the operation of their schools. Accordingly, this matter may not be determined as a purely legal question.”